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  • Author: Declan Connaughton x
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Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton and Declan Connaughton

The authors conducted an investigation of mental toughness in a sample population of athletes who have achieved ultimate sporting success. Eight Olympic or world champions, 3 coaches, and 4 sport psychologists agreed to participate. Qualitative methods addressed 3 fundamental issues: the definition of mental toughness, the identification of its essential attributes, and the development of a framework of mental toughness. Results verified the authors’ earlier definition of mental toughness and identified 30 attributes that were essential to being mentally tough. These attributes clustered under 4 separate dimensions (attitude/mindset, training, competition, postcompetition) within an overall framework of mental toughness. Practical implications and future avenues of research involving the development of mental toughness and measurement issues are discussed.

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Declan Connaughton, Sheldon Hanton and Graham Jones

Eleven superelite participants (7 performers, 2 coaches and 2 sport psychologists) were interviewed regarding the development and maintenance of mental toughness. Findings revealed that this process occurred over four distinct career phases: three developmental phases, and one maintenance phase. Factors influencing development and maintenance included: skill mastery, competitiveness, successes, international competitive experience, education and advice, the use of psychological skills, access to an understanding social support network, and reflective practice. In addition, positive and negative critical incidents were perceived by participants to act as catalysts in initiating or enhancing specific components of mental toughness. Practical implications highlight the importance of a mental toughness attitude/mindset to development, while future directions are discussed in relation to measurement and intervention strategies.